Experimenting Without Risk

Let me start with an apology. I’m using a golf story again. Sorry about that.

This past weekend I purchased a new set of golf clubs. My previous ones were only a partial set and I got them more than 20 years ago. That was on Saturday, and on Sunday my wife and I went golfing.  She suggested we not keep score, which was fine with me, because she’s a much better golfer than I am.

It was the most relaxing game of golf I’ve ever played. It was a beautiful day, I got a lot of exercise (we walk the course), and I got to experiment and fail without worrying about how many shots I had to take (the course was pretty empty).  

As I said, I’m not a particularly good golfer and I had new, and very different, clubs to play with. We spent two and a half hours out there, doing 18 holes on a par 3 course. I got to try out various clubs (though not a lot with my driver given how short the holes were), and received some helpful guidance on my putting from my wife. 

If I’d kept score, however, I wouldn’t have felt like I could try out different things. I would have wanted to play it safe, sticking to just a few clubs, and likely becoming frustrated making me unpleasant to be around and my wife may not have wanted to provide me those tips. Instead, I experimented, learned, had a good workout, spent a pleasant morning with my wife, and managed to par the 18th.

At the university, my colleagues and I often advise instructors to give students opportunities to fail and learn without penalty. Let them get feedback on a rough draft or take practice quizzes some time before the exam, with no grades attached. In other words, let them experiment with their new clubs (or knowledge) without keeping score the first time.

I think we all need to let ourselves do this. Little kids will try to do anything because they haven’t learned yet that society frowns on “failure”. Failure is a good thing. It leads to growth. It leads to wanting to help others. It leads to having fun if we get to play or try something new without somebody keeping score. This might be a practice or scrimmage in sports, a self-check in school, making a new dish for your family before trying it out on at a dinner party, etc.

Go have fun. Don’t keep score. Try new things. Laugh at yourself and learn, and offer the same opportunities for others. 

Featured image courtesy of Pexels under a CC-BY-SA license

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